Theroux in May 2009
|Alma mater||Magdalen College, Oxford|
|Occupation||Documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, author|
(m. 1998; div. 2001)
Louis Sebastian Theroux (/ /; born 20 May 1970) is a British documentary filmmaker, journalist, broadcaster, and author. He has received two British Academy Television Awards and a Royal Television Society Television Award.
Born in Singapore to an English mother and American father (writer Paul Theroux), Theroux moved with his family to London when he was a child along with younger sister, Emma Ryan Theroux. After graduating from Oxford, he moved to the U.S. and worked as a journalist for Metro Silicon Valley and Spy. He moved into television as the presenter of offbeat segments on Michael Moore's TV Nation series. This led to a series of BBC documentaries, including Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, When Louis Met..., and several BBC Two specials.
Louis Sebastian Theroux was born in Singapore on 20 May 1970, the son of American travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux and his English then-wife Anne (née Castle). His paternal grandmother, Anne (née Dittami), was an Italian-American grammar school teacher, and his paternal grandfather, Albert Eugène Theroux, was French-Canadian and a salesman for the American Leather Oak company. He holds both British and American citizenship. His older brother, Marcel, is a writer and television presenter. His cousin, Justin, is an actor and screenwriter. Theroux is the nephew of novelist Alexander Theroux and writer Peter Theroux.
Theroux moved with his family to England at the age of one, and was brought up in London. He was educated at Tower House School and then at Westminster School, a public school within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. While there, he became friends with comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish, and the Liberal Democrat politician Nick Clegg, with whom he travelled to America. He also performed in a number of school theatre productions including Bugsy Malone as Looney Bergonzi, Ritual for Dolls as the Army Officer, and The Splendour Falls as the Minstrel. Theroux later read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford (1988–1991), graduating with first-class honours.
Theroux's first employment as a journalist was in the United States with Metro Silicon Valley, an alternative free weekly newspaper in San Jose, California. In 1992, he was hired as a writer for Spy magazine. He also worked as a correspondent on Michael Moore's TV Nation series, for which he provided segments on off-beat cultural subjects, including selling Avon to women in the Amazon Rainforest, the Jerusalem syndrome, and attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to rebrand itself as a civil rights group for white people.
When TV Nation ended, Theroux was signed to a development deal by the BBC, through which he developed Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends. He has guest-written for a number of publications, including Hip Hop Connection, and he continues to write for The Idler.
Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends
In Weird Weekends (1998–2000), Theroux followed marginal (mostly American) subcultures such as survivalists, black nationalists, white supremacists, and porn stars, often by living among or close to the people involved. His documentary method often subtly exposed the contradictions or farcical elements of some seriously held beliefs. He described the aim of the series as:
Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it's almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.
When Louis Met...
In the series When Louis Met... (2000–02), Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity in each programme in their daily lives, interviewing them as they go. His episode about British entertainer Jimmy Savile, When Louis Met Jimmy, was voted one of the top documentaries of all time in a 2005 survey by Britain's Channel 4. Some years after the episode was filmed, the NSPCC described Savile as one of the most prolific sex offenders in Great Britain.
In an interview in 2015, Theroux expressed his intention to produce a follow-up documentary about Savile for the BBC to explore how the late entertainer had continued his abuse for so long, to meet people he knew closely, and examine his own reflections on his inability to dig more deeply into the first case. This follow-up documentary, with the title Savile, aired on BBC Two on Sunday, 2 October 2016, and lasted 1 hour, 15 minutes.
In When Louis Met Max Clifford, Max Clifford tried to set up Theroux, but he was caught lying as the crew recorded his live microphone during the conversations.
After this series concluded, a retrospective called Life with Louis was released. Theroux made a documentary called Louis, Martin & Michael about his quest to get an interview with Michael Jackson. Selected episodes of When Louis Met... were included as bonus content on a Best-Of collection of Weird Weekends.
BBC Two specials
In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned to American themes, working at feature-length and in a more natural way. In March 2006, he signed a new deal with the BBC to make 10 films over the course of three years. Subjects for the specials include criminal gangs in Lagos, Neo-Nazis in America, ultra-Zionists in Israel. He also visits child psychiatry, and the prison systems in California and Florida. A 2007 special, The Most Hated Family in America, received strong critical praise from the international media.
My Scientology Movie
In October 2016, Theroux premiered a feature length documentary entitled My Scientology Movie. Produced by Simon Chinn—a schoolfriend of Theroux's—and directed by John Dower, the film covers Theroux attempting to gain access to the secretive Church of Scientology. The film premiered at the London Film Festival in 2015 and was released in cinemas in the UK on 7 October 2016.
Theroux published his first book, The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, in Britain in 2005. In it he recounts his return to the United States to learn about the lives of some of the people he had featured in his television programmes.
Theroux released an autobiography titled Gotta Get Theroux This in September of 2019.
As part of the Weird Weekends episode "Porn", Theroux agreed to film a cameo in the 1997 gay pornography film Take a Peak. He did not perform sexual acts in the film, but made a brief appearance as a park ranger in search of a criminal. In the Weird Weekends episode "Infomercials", he was featured as a live salesman for an at-home paper shredder for the Home Shopping Network.
In December 2015 Theroux captained the team representing Magdalen College, Oxford, on BBC Four's Christmas University Challenge. In their first-round match the team beat University of Exeter by 220 to 130 and Theroux's team went on to win the tournament.
Theroux's first marriage was to Susanna Kleeman from 1998 to 2001; he later told Sathnam Sanghera of the Financial Times, "What happened was that my girlfriend was living with me in New York. She was having trouble finding work ... legally. So we got married, to make it easier for her. We never really considered ourselves married in the full sense – there were no wedding photos or anything like that. It was really a marriage of convenience."
While filming a 2011 BBC programme, Louis Theroux, was asked "Why pose a difference between religion and ethics?" He responded, "Because I don't believe in God." In his 2011 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, he confirmed his atheism. In a 2012 masterclass Theroux spoke of the challenges of combining family life with the need to go away to work on projects.
Theroux married longtime girlfriend Nancy Strang on 13 July 2013. They have three sons. He and his family lived in Harlesden, London until they temporarily moved to Los Angeles, California in early 2013, allowing him more time to focus on his LA Stories series. In August 2017, Theroux again relocated to Los Angeles.
Awards and nominations
|2002||Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News)||When Louis Met...||Won|
|Flaherty Documentary Award (TV)||When Louis Met... The Hamiltons||Nominated|
|2001||Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News)||Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends||Won|
|1995||Outstanding Informational Series||TV Nation||Nominated|
Royal Television Society Television Awards
|2010||Best Presenter||A Place for Paedophiles||Won|
|2002||Best Presenter||When Louis Met...||Nominated|
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After leaving university in 1991, Theroux, who has dual British and US citizenship, decided to go to America
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- The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. 2003. pp. 1668. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
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- Theroux, Louis (1999). Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Off-Off Broadway. New York: BBC Two.
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- on YouTube
- Theroux, Louis (2019). Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times in Television. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9781509880362.
- Bucktin, Christopher. "Louis Theroux: I hope Jennifer Aniston marries my cousin Justin Theroux". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
- Carroll, Rory (8 October 2017). "Louis Theroux: 'For all his awfulness, I admire Trump's shamelessness'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- Greenstreet, Rosanna (17 November 2018). "Louis Theroux: 'My greatest achievement ? To have made a career in TV while being nervous by nature'". the Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
- "Louis Theroux on Legalising Marijuana & His Craziest Interviews! The Big Narstie Show". YouTube. 2 March 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
- "The Big Narstie Show - Series 3 Episode 4". Channel 4. 28 February 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.